Few players in the English game are as high profile as Danny Cipriani.
Luckily he’s been able to put the embarrassment of the summer behind him and in his first games for his new club delivered two scintillating pieces of skill resulting in tries for Matt Banahan and Charlie Sharples.
Two reactive left to right passes under the pressure of the defence, one of them over 20m? No two ways about it, they were both sublime pieces of skill and understandably the main focus of post match analysis.
The problem is that’s only about 10 – 15 seconds of play from 160 minutes. Whilst it's true they are game breaking moments, and it’s great to have that ability, a fly half has to bring more to the party than two great passes. He needs to organise and think tactically ahead, understand what his forwards are capable off (for example, there is no point kicking for touch if your lineouts getting smashed) and this is where I think Cipriani has really jumped ahead of the other English 10’s.
With Wasps it was easy to overlook how good Cipriani was and how much he drove the Wasps attack. His partnership with Gopperth was almost symbiotic, so intune where they you could be forgiven for forgetting who was playing 10 and who was playing 12. But how much of that was down to Cipriani and how much was Gopperth is almost impossible to tell.
So what does Cipriani bring to the game that other, England, 10’s don’t?
The same two wave attack pattern is wholelly evident in Gloucesters play as was used at Wasps, which gives a nice indication of what he brings to the party but for me it’s the level of organisation he imposes on the team as they work through the phases. A perfect example of this is around the 30 minute mark against Gloucester, in the lead up to the Braley try. A sequence of play in which Ciprani doesn’t even touch the ball.
Gloucester have caught, set and driven the ball and as it’s slowly recylced we can see Cipriani talking to the forwards in front of them indicating where best to attack and their organising their formation.
The carry actually goes wrong and somehow Gloucester recover and set up to go again.
Again we see Cipriani taking control of everything outside the ruck, allowing his forwards to function without Braley who’s at the bottom of the ruck. As play moves on we can see him talking and gesturing to Twelvetrees of what they need to do next and then he slides in behind the ruck and tells the forwards to pick and go for this phase.
A quick recycle now that Braley is back in the game and Twelvetress offloads to Trinder who spins out and then pops the ball off the floor to Braley who charges through to score.
6 phases, never touches the ball, completely runs the game.
Earlier we got another excellent view of his influence. Gloucester catch set and drive and we can see Cipriani scanning ahead to check what the defence is doing, which he communicates with Twelvetrees. As the drive slows we can see Braley looking to Cipriani who tells him to work the short side, which he does.
Again asGloucester continue to retain possesion we can see him constantly talking to the point we can see him giving the signal to Ben Morgan to bounce out and make a carry pod.
The ball eventually becomes unplayable and they come back for the penalty.
While these things don't seem like much they are important in a team aiming to become a cohesive unit. As spectators we often look only as far as those things on the ball but in this day and age of strict attack patterns and over coaching it’s interesting to see a 10 have as much control on the game as Cipriani does.
Of course there is genius in there as well, this 50m kick in the lead up to the Ackerman try is for me one of the moments of the match.
I honestly can’t think of another 10 in English Rugby who’s making that kick.
It turns the entire Bath defence, pins Homer into a corner and off the loose kick Gloucester counter leading to his wonderful bit of decision making from Cipriani to release Ackerman off a two runner option.
For me that level of control is something England have been missing under Ford and Farrell, who I find quite rigid in their approach to playing, happy to slide back and let the 9 run the game.
How Cipriani can fit within the model of a 9 leading with the 10 subservient to his vision will be interesting and with Ford showing glimpses of why he’s such a brilliant attack 10 and Farrell showing consistency that i believe makes him he perfect Englsih 12 Cipriani is in for a fight. Though with his ability to mould a team to his will like this he must be catching the eye of the selectors.
If he can retain the 10 jersey for the Autumn Internationals it could be an interesting run of games for the men in white leading into next years 6Nations and subsequent World Cup.